US President Joe Biden on Tuesday said that the federal government will purchase half-a-billion at-home rapid COVID-19 tests, a crucial step to tackle omicron, the dominant variant in the country. He further added that starting next month, private insurance will cover at home testing and people can order tests online and get reimbursed by their insurance.

The federal government will purchase one half billion additional at home rapid tests, Biden said.

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In addition to at home tests, the President said more is being done to establish testing sites.

“Starting this week, the federal government will set up emergency testing sites.”

The President said that he has directed the Pentagon to mobilize additional 1,000 troops to be deployed to help staff local hospitals and expand capacity.

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In remarks Tuesday at the White House, Biden detailed major changes to his COVID-19 winter plan, his hand forced by the arrival of the fast-spreading variant, whose properties are yet not fully understood by scientists. Yet his message was clear that the winter holidays could be close to normal for the vaccinated while potentially dangerous for the unvaccinated.

His pleas are not political, he emphasized. He noted that former President Donald Trump has gotten his booster shot, and he said it’s Americans’ “patriotic duty” to get vaccinated.

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“It’s the only responsible thing to do,” the president said. “Omicron is serious and potentially deadly business for unvaccinated people.”

Biden chastised social media and people on cable TV who have made misleading statements to discourage people from getting vaccinated.

The outbreak from this latest strain of the coronavirus has required the federal government to get more aggressive in addressing the likely wave of infections, but Biden promised a weary nation that there would not be a mass lockdown of schools or businesses.

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“I know you’re tired, and I know you’re frustrated. We all want this to be over. But we’re still in it,” Biden said. “We also have more tools than we had before. We’re ready, we’ll get through this.”

Scientists don’t yet know everything about omicron yet, but they do know that vaccination should offer strong protections against severe illness and death. The variant has spread at such an alarming rate that the Biden administration snapped quickly into action to offer new tests and additional aid.

A cornerstone of the plan is Biden’s decision for the government to purchase 500 million coronavirus rapid tests for free shipment to Americans starting in January. People will use a new website to order their tests, which will then be sent by U.S. mail at no charge, the White House said.

It marks a major shift for Biden, who earlier had called for many Americans to purchase the hard-to-find tests on their own and then seek reimbursement from their health insurance. For the first time, the U.S. government will send free COVID-19 tests directly to Americans, after more than a year of urging by public health experts.

With inputs from the Associated Press